It’s time to get back to work on Monday, August 8, 2022: National Rice Pudding Day. At last it’s arrived: a celebration of my favorite dessert! The best version I ever had was at the famous bistro L’Ami Jean in Paris, where you’d get a huge bowl of the stuff, with garnishes on the side, and could help yourself to as much as you want. That was one of the main reasons I went there, but the food was also great.
Here WAS their rice pudding/. I am stupefied:
You could even add extra whipped cream! Here’s my first portion (I’d usually have three or so.)
Alas, this is no more. After Adam Gopnik wrote an article about the restaurant (mentioning the pudding) in The New Yorker, the place went downhill. Food quality dropped, as did portion size, and if you ordered rice pudding you got a smallish individual portion with a wee bit of garnish on top. I don’t blame Adam, though, as the place was already well known to foodies, both French and Anglophones. But I will never go there again.
The vote-a-rama (yes, it is actually called that), a familiar but reviled ritual for the octogenarians and elders who make up the Senate, began late Saturday night and stretched into Sunday morning. It was a final chance for Republicans to try to derail Democrats’ top legislative priority — or at least to lob political attacks against them on its path to passage — and a test of Democratic resolve to preserve their delicate compromise.
It was also the ultimate display of senatorial weirdness and dysfunction — a time-consuming exercise that has little impact on policy but keeps senators up through the night, ending only when they run out of steam for offering more amendments. They were still at it midmorning on Sunday after about 12 hours, with no certain indication of when they would finish.
Anyway, the Senators’ vote was 50-50, with no Republicans in favor and with Kamala Harris breaking the tie to achieve 51-50. A squeaker, but Manchin and Sinema were on the side of the angels. The provisions:
The measure, large elements of which appeared dead just weeks ago amid Democratic divisions, would inject nearly $400 billion into climate and energy programs. Altogether, the bill could allow the United States to cut greenhouse gas emissions about 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
It would achieve Democrats’ longstanding goal of slashing prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare for the first time to negotiate the prices of medicines directly and capping the amount that recipients pay out of pocket for drugs each year at $2,000. The measure also would extend larger premium subsidies for health coverage for low- and middle-income people under the Affordable Care Act for three years.
And it would be paid for by substantial tax increases, mostly on large corporations, including establishing a 15 percent corporate minimum tax and imposing a new tax on company stock buybacks.
This may not help Biden become the Democratic candidate in 2024, but it will surely help the Democrats win.
*And, in case you were wondering, here are the latest update of Five-Thirty-Eight‘s prognostications for the midterm election. The Senate is pretty even, but Dems take it in most simulations:
If this transpires, we’ll be in the legislative doldrums, but worse than before because the House won’t be able to pass anything, not even a “reconciliation” bill. .
*The Washington Post‘s Sunday magazine has a photo essay on what’s happened to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over. It’s as some of us expected (those who actually believedthat the Taliban would be less theocratic and would empower women were suckers:
Gone were Western-looking clothes, the cleanshaven bureaucrats and hip youngsters in their skinny jeans and cool haircuts. Men now wore traditionalclothing — the shalwar kameez — and they were growing beards. Women were seen less often in public since many had lost their jobs, especially in the public sector. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was shut down, and its building now housed the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the religious police who enforce the Taliban version of sharia law.
Those are the guys who beat women who aren’t sufficiently covered. And of course women can’t go to college, despite the Taliban’s promises. Religion poisons everything.
*At the same time that primaries in the U.S. are being won by candidates who have an endorsement from Trump, it’s not clear, according to the Wall Street Journal, whether a Trump run for the Presidency in 2024 will get much enthusiasm from his fellow Republicans.
But as Mr. Trump weighs a new campaign for the White House in 2024, many GOP lawmakers aren’t ready to throw their support behind him. In interviews with nearly three dozen Republican lawmakers who were asked whether Mr. Trump should run, many deflected the question, saying that Mr. Trump’s decision is up to him without endorsing the idea.
Only four affirmatively said that they wanted Mr. Trump to try for another term, while three others said they hope he stays out, citing what they see as his divisive style of politics, his age, and the rise of other promising Republicans interested in the White House.
“I think we need a new generation of leadership,” said Rep. Chris Jacobs (R., N.Y.), who is retiring after this term. His was the most pro-Trump congressional district in New York state in 2020. “I support a lot of Donald Trump’s policies. And I think that they benefit this nation. But I think it’s time to move on.”
Here is my dream, which is mine: Ukraine beats the crap out of Russia, the Dems take the Presidency, House, and Senate in 2024, and Trump goes to jail for fomenting sedition. Oh, and Elizabeth Holmes also gets a couple years of jail time, too.
*Over at the Atlantic, Ibram X. Kendi excoriates the government for sexism and racism, saying that there’s a double standard when treating the violence caused by street gangs and the “violence” (he means “unwanted sexual contact”) caused by college fraternities. To do this, he, citing dubious statistics, incomparable statistics, and to say this:
The fraternity may be as violent as the gang. Collegiate America may be as dangerous for women as urban America. If sexual violence is a violent crime, then the fraternity of today may be committing as many violent crimes as the gang of the 1990s that spooked fearful Americans into tough-on-crime policies.
. . . Fraternities and sexual violence have taken over our colleges. And yet, has Congress ever seriously considered steering billions to thwart sexual violence, to clean up the toxic masculinity poisoning fraternities and campus life?
He decries the fairness in campus sexual misconduct hearings promoted by Betsy DeVos (one of the few good things the Trump administration did), and says that America goes too hard on gangs and too soft on fraternities.
This double standard is both racist and elitist. After all, the stereotypical gang boy is poor and non-white. The stereotypical frat man is elite and white. And the double standard is sexist, as well. A blinding toxicity of masculinity prevents some Americans from truly caring about the typical victim of sexual assault on college campuses in the way they care about the victim of urban violence.
I’m not sure why the Atlantic allowed such a shoddy and poorly written piece in their august pages, except that the author is Ibram Kendi. In response to Kendi’s article, “What’s the difference between a frat and a gang?”, one Twitter wag responded:
Answer: In the aggregate, the difference amounts to about 1,300 homicides and $120 billion in illegal drug sales per year. pic.twitter.com/35lS03aLX3
Szaron Where were you walking? Hili: To and fro. Szaron: I will go there as well.
Szaron: Gdzie chodziłaś?
Hili: Tam i siam.
Szaron: Ja tam też pójdę.
And a lovely picture of Szaron kissing Andrzej:
Finally, a big announcement: Leon turns eight today! Hard to believe; I knew him as a kitten. Elzbieta has written birthday greetings to her cat, and Malgorzata translated them:
Dignified, eight years old honoree, inseparable companion of everyday life, emphatic nurse with an exceptionally strong personality, exceptional intelligence, a gloomy gaze but with an all-embracing heart.
Where we are now: According to the Amundsen’s real-time map, we have crossed the Drake Passaage and are about to head through the Beagle Channel toward Punta Arenas. I don’t know when we will dock there, and have no idea about my fate (or that of any of the passengers).
What with the seas and the winds, it was a very rough night, with things falling off shelves and the magnetically-closed closet doors swinging open. I’ve long ago learned to put my computer on the floor at night lest it fall off the table and break, but last night almost everything not secured was in danger of falling to the cabin floor.
And, from the balcony, here’s the first land I’ve seen in nearly two days. The sea is still a bit choppy, but things aren’t flying all over the ship, and there’s even a bit of sunshine.
Good morning on a Chilean Monday, March 14, 2022, which means not only is it the start of the work week, but it’s National Potato Chip Day. Because this tasty comestible was likely nvented in England, the proper name is “crisps,” not “potato chips.” But “potato chips” is too entrenched in the U.S.
Mo the Runner Duck is cheerful that it’s Monday (h/t: Matthew)
*Is this some good news in the Ukraine/Russia fight? The NYT reports that Russia and Ukraine are having “talks”, though Zelensky (one “y” or two; it’s transliterated) hasn’t scheduled a Zoom call with Putin. As the paper notes, “Both sides have said that the gap in demands has narrowed ahead of this round of talks,” but of course we don’t know what that means. Since I don’t know what it’s like to be a Putin, I can only speculate. But I doubt he’d pull out of Ukraine if they simply promised not to join NATO.
The Russians continue their relentless assault on Ukraine, now shelling the country’s west, where many have hoped to find a war-free refuge. The Russians are shelling civilian areas as well as passenger trains. Estimates of damage to Ukrainian infrastructure are now at $114 billion.
A residential building in Kyiv’s Obolon district was struck by Russian shelling Monday, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service, forcing residents to flee as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames and rescue those trapped inside. . .
. . . In the Kurenivka neighborhood, the wreckage of a rocket also landed in a street on Monday, killing one person and injuring six others, according to the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko.
But this is nice:
Emergency workers also helped evacuate pets.
*Some financial experts are beginning to speculate that the financial squeeze on Russia may eventually force it to default on the country’s debts. From the Guardian:
A Russian default on its debts after western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine is no longer “improbable”, but would not trigger a global financial crisis, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Sunday.
The Washington-based fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said the sanctions imposed by the United States and other nations were already having a “severe” impact on the Russian economy and would trigger a deep recession there this year. The war in Ukraine will also drive up food and energy prices, leading to hunger in Africa, she added.
Georgieva told CBS’s Face the Nation programme: “In terms of servicing debt obligations, I can say that we no longer think of Russian default as an improbable event. Russia has the money to service its debt, but cannot access it. What I’m more concerned about is that there are consequences that go beyond Ukraine and Russia.”
Last week, the World Bank’s chief economist, Carmen Reinhart, warned that Russia and its ally Belarus were “mightily close” to default.
But since the debt isn’t huge as national debts go, these experts aren’t yet worried that such a default would trigger an international financial crisis.
*Surprisingly, some First Amendment scholars are touting loosening the Amendment to make it easier to prosecute defamation or libel cases that they see as spreading societal harm. As the New York Times reports,
The lawyers and First Amendment scholars who have made it their life’s work to defend the well-established but newly threatened constitutional protections for journalists don’t usually root for the media to lose in court.
But that’s what is happening with a series of recent defamation lawsuits against right-wing outlets that legal experts say could be the most significant libel litigation in recent memory.
The suits, which are being argued in several state and federal courts, accuse Project Veritas, Fox News, The Gateway Pundit, One America News and others of intentionally promoting and profiting from false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election, and of smearing innocent civil servants and businesses in the process.
If the outlets prevail, these experts say, the results will call into question more than a half-century of precedent that created a clear legal framework for establishing when news organizations can be held liable for publishing something that’s not true.
The controversy turns on whether defamatory reporting with “actual malice” in intent should be construed more strictly than it is now. The balance is, as always, between freedom of speech and the likelihood of harm, but in this case the First-Amendment lawyers have a point.
*While the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine, we should spare a thought for the Middle East, particularly what Masih has tweeted below.
The execution of 81 people in 1 day in Saudi Arabia must be condemned. And you can be sure that they won’t suffer any embarrassment on the world stage. Islamic Republic killed 1500 in 3 days in #BloodyNovember and the world did nothing. In the Middle East we are just numbers!
It’s reported by the New York Times, which says this:
Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that it had put 81 people to death in what was the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years, despite recent promises to curb its use of the death penalty.
In a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Ministry of Interior said the people had been executed for “multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead.” It did not say how they had been executed.
. . . Rights groups condemned the executions, saying they flew in the face of claims by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, that the country was overhauling its justice system and limiting its use of the death penalty.
The comment below is by Ali Adubusi, director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights:
Mr. Adubusi’s rights group said that of the cases it had been able to monitor and document among the 81 people executed, it had found no charges that merited the death penalty under the criteria that Saudi Arabia has made public. Some of the charges were related to participation in human rights demonstrations, the group said.
. . . Rights groups said the number of executions carried out on Saturday far outstripped those put to death in the kingdom’s two most recent mass executions: one in 2019, in which 37 were killed, and the other in 2016, when 47 were executed.
*According to The Forward, the Sierra Club has canceled several trips to Israel because of pressure from “anti-Zionist” groups (h/t Orli)
The decision came after activists alleged the organization was “greenwashing the conflict” and “providing legitimacy to the Israeli state, which is engaged in apartheid against the Palestinian people,” a volunteer leader with the nonprofit summarized in an email this week.
“Greenwashing,” like “pinkwashing” which refers to LGBTQ rights, is a term used by critics of Israel to refer to the act of obscuring Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by focusing on the country’s liberal environmental values or policies.
News of the Sierra Club’s decision came in a mass email obtained by J. that was sent out by Mary Owens, the chair of the Sierra Club’s National Outings team, to hundreds of volunteers who lead part-recreational, part-educational, conservation-focused trips around the world.
. . . The email from Owens, who said she was not authorized to speak to the press, described the Sierra Club’s decision to cancel its trips — one scheduled for this month, and another for March 2023 — as the result of an advocacy push from one “Jewish American activist” and a host of both progressive and anti-Zionist groups, including the pro-Palestinian Adalah Justice Project, the Indigenous rights group the NDN Collective, the Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Sunrise Movement and the Movement for Black Lives.
Note that the Sierra Club is now engaged in political activity—a boycott of trips to Israel in response to Israel’s “apartheid state” status—that has nothing to do with its mission. What is stupid about all this is that it is Palestine, not Israel, that is the apartheid state, but Israel is the state demonized by “progressives.” Were I a member of the Sierra Club, I’d quit over this; it’s not targeted at anything but the state of Israel itself, and is anti-Semitic.
*According to the New York Post, the stature of Theodor Roosevelt that once stood at the American Museum of Natural History, but was removed because it showed Roosevelt astride his horse, but flanked by a walking Native American on one side and an African (not a slave or African-American) on the other, is now the object of a petition that seeks to melt down the statue. It was headed to the Theodore Roosevelt Museum in Medora, North Dakota, but these petitioning Pecksniffs won’t rest until the statue is destroyed. (h/t: Matthew and Cesar) A quote from the Post:
“New Yorkers cannot simply dump their toxic cultural products in other communities,” according to an online petition by the academics started last month. “The city should reject the transfer of its undesirable waste elsewhere. In this case, the monument’s bronze content could be melted down or recycled for a better purpose or simply disposed of.”
. . . “The Public Design Commission approved the loan of the statue to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library with the understanding that the library will establish an advisory council composed of representatives of the indigenous tribal and black communities, historians, scholars, and artists to guide the reconsideration of the statue,” City Hall spokesman Charles Lutvak said.
The statue was removed at night on January 20. Well that could just be to avoid disrupting traffic rather than as a sneaky and surreptitious act, but the statue was on loan, not destroyed. It’s a sign of the moral hysterics of these Pecksniffs that it won’t do for the statue to be both relocated and “contextualized.” No, it has to be totally destroyed. Welcome to Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The second link in this note goes to a letter Greg Mayer wrote to the AMNH defending the presence and content of the statue.
The petition had drawn more than 275 signatures since it was posted on Tumblr last month. It was started by members of Decolonize This Place, a left-wing activist group which pushed for the statue’s removal.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Andrzej are communing about Ukraine/Russia, and Malgorzata explains a bit:
The situation is so complicated that it’s difficult not only to know which information to believe but even to understand one’s own feelings about it. Hili is commiserating with Andrzej saying a platitude used in such situations and Andrzej is answering as if the platitude meant something.
Hili: I know what you feel now.
A: Sometimes I don’t know myself.
Hili: Ja wiem co teraz czujesz.
Ja: Chwilami ja sam nie wiem.
And here’s little Kulka, who isn’t so little any more:
We haven’t had a Leon monologue in a while, as he’s been quiescent during winter. Here the Dark Tabby senses the approach of Spring:
Leon: Gotta stretch the paws after winter.
I asked Malgorzata if any Ukrainian refugees had made their way to the town of Dobrzyn. Her response.
We still do not have any refugees. In our tiny town the fire brigade and school together prepared 40 places and they are still empty. At the same time in Warsaw and other big cities people are sleeping on the floor of the railway stations or in huge halls with hundreds of beds close together. I suspect that this crazy situation is the result of the total lack of coordination from the state authorities. Everything is done by private people, small charitable organizations and by local authorities. And new refugees are coming in thousands every day! Yesterday Russians bombed an Ukrainian place 20 km from Polish border.
From Stefan. When I was younger I didn’t believe this was a thing, and so looked it up. It turns out there are several papers in medical journals on the issue, and the usual excuse for the accident is like this, “I was vacuuming in my dressing gown when the gown came open and the vacuum cleaner sucked in my penis.”
And that reaction isn’t just in Ukraine. Russian rapper Morgenshtern may well be in deep trouble now.
Morgenshtern, Russia's biggest rapper, has released an anti-war music video. It ends with a voice message from his Ukrainian producer's mother talking about surviving life under Russian airstrikes.https://t.co/9FDMehuCO9
Another example of mimicry. I’m not sure why they haven’t done the observation to see if individuals really can change color. See another example of mimicry below:
Today's fish is Bargibant's Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti)! They've evolved to live exclusively on fan corals and closely mimic the shape and color of the coral polyps. They can be red or yellow and may have color change abilities! 📸Greg Lecoeur, Richard Smith, orangkucing pic.twitter.com/f7e7oIOVYu
Wine of the Day: I don’t drink much vintage port, but after sampling this 24-year-old specimen, I realized that I should. The reasons I neglect port are two: price and time. It’s usually expensive,—$60 a bottle or more when first released—and you should hold onto it for at least 15 years after the vintage date before drinking (it’s aged in oak for three years before it’s bottled). It throws a heavy sediment, and more likely than not you’ll break the cork trying to extricate it, which means laborious decanting and filtering.
But with a good port like this, which can last a week after opening, it’s worth it. I couldn’t find much about this vintage, made from their flagship vineyard (the weather in 1998 wasn’t good for widespread “declaration” of vintage port), but I’ve had enough port to advise that if you can find this one at $50, and can afford it, buy it (I paid considerably less, but that was a while back). This Cockburn was made in the round, sweetish style that I like in this dessert wine (other makers with that style are Graham’s and Taylor’s). It’s now about it’s peak, with ripe, plummy sweetness, like alcoholic jam: perfect for sipping with a book, as I’m about to do now.
I don’t drink port on my own except when I don’t have wine with dinner, as that would be too much alcohol. (This one comes in at a full 20% abv, so a largish glass will last all evening.) Port, along with other sweet wines like sherry or the Australian “stickies,” still remains a great value for quality, even though it isn’t cheap. If you don’t know vintage port, there is no substitute (even the vaunted tawny ports, the next step down), but try to get hold of the good stuff. T
Port after dinner with nuts or Stilton: a great British tradition. (I prefer mine on its own).
Shapiro, who’d recently been hired by Georgetown University’s law school, criticized Joe Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Indian-born judge Sri Srinivasan was “objectively” the “best pick.” But Srinivasan, wrote Shapiro, “alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman.” He claimed that if Biden considered only Black women, whoever he chose would always have an “asterisk attached.”
That’s offensive for sure, but the man has free speech (he did apologize for one of those tweets), and, as I wrote before, one of his female colleagues said things even more heinous about the nomination of Bret Kavanaugh, but she was defended by Georgetown. This is a clear case of double-standards for speech. (See also the U.S. Free Speech Union’s post “Georgetown’s Thuggish Illiberalism.”)
Why is Goldberg, a liberal, opposed to such punishment? For reasons I well understand:
I wouldn’t argue with anyone who interprets Shapiro’s insulting tweets that way [i.e. black women can’t come up to snuff on the Supreme Court]. Nevertheless, it is a mistake for Georgetown to investigate or punish him, for two reasons, one abstract and one strategic. The abstract one is that however offensive Shapiro’s words were, they’re also the sort of political speech that should be protected by basic notions of academic freedom, which is why a number of peoplewhodetest what Shapiro said criticized Georgetown’s move. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote, “I’ve made my feelings about what he said clear but it’s impossible for academic institutions to fulfill their missions if they fire or punish people under circumstances like these.”
But punishing Shapiro for his tweets isn’t a bad idea just in principle. It also threatens to undermine the value of academic freedom at a time when that value is under sustained assault in many red states.
This kind of academic censorship, which as Shapiro notes comes from both Right and Left, is reaching a kind of crescendo. Can it get any worse? Debate, yes, but trying to ruin people’s lives over their speech? Well, I’m agin’ it. The gleefulness I see when someone is fired or “canceled” is sickening. And for someone like Trump, there’s both counterspeech and the ballot—and, in some cases, lawsuits.
Professors aren’t immune from the protections of the First Amendment when speaking as citizens. As the USFSU notes about Shapiro’s suspension and condemnation by Georgetown Law dean William Treanor,
Treanor’s bullying statement and actions plainly violate the principle of academic freedom, which protects what the American Association of University Professors terms “extramural utterances.” As the AAUP avows, when professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” Elaborating on this idea, the AAUP stresses that “the controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for the position.”
Of course the black students will, and have, said that what Shapiro said demonstrates his unfitness as a teacher, but it really doesn’t. He may be perfectly fine as a professor of constitutional law. But, people can claim, “Because of what he said, I will be harmed if I took his class.” Those people need to get over themselves.
People keep forgetting that freedom of speech is there precisely to protect those who say unpopular and unwelcome things. Most moral progress in our era started with unwelcome speech. Nobody, least of all Treanor or the aggrieved students of Georgetown, can set themselves up as judges of what professors can say in their free time.
*Re the Ukraine, based on the continuing Russian buildup, my latest prediction is the Russia will invade the country before the Winter Olympics are over. I will be delighted to be wrong, for one can imagine the horrors that could ensue, even though the most likely response from NATO and the U.S. will be a tepid rather than a bellicose one.
Former Vice President Mike Pence called out his former boss by name on Friday, saying that “President (Donald) Trump is wrong” in claiming that Pence had the right to overturn the 2020 election on January 6, 2021.
Former Vice President Mike Pence called out his former boss by name on Friday, saying that “President (Donald) Trump is wrong” in claiming that Pence had the right to overturn the 2020 election on January 6, 2021.
Speaking at the Federalist Society Florida Chapters conference near Orlando, Pence delivered his strongest response yet to Trump’s ongoing efforts to relitigate the 2020 presidential election, calling it “un-American” to suggest one person could have decided the outcome.
Pence warned against conservatives who continue to insist the vice president can alter an election, and said it could be a problematic position for Republicans in the next presidential contest.
“Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election, and (Vice President) Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence said.
“WE beat them in 2024”? Who, exactly is “we”? It can’t be Trump and Pence, because for sure Pence would not be Trump’s VP pick if the Orange Man ran again in two years. No, it has to mean that, by declaring his independence this way, Pence is throwing his own hat into the ring. That heartens me a bit, because Pence is such a lame-o that he couldn’t beat a decent Democrat. Our problem, though, is we don’t have any decent Democratic candidates for President—at least not ones that I can see all Democrats getting behind. Perhaps one will rise from the ranks, like Obama.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 900,141, an increase of 2,6319 deaths over yesterday’s figure. We’ll probably reach at least a million deaths before this thing is over, but the curve is bending sharply downward (see below). The reported world death toll is now 5,745,796, an increase of about 12,600 over yesterday’s total.
Here’s the curve of “new reported cases in the U.S.” from the NYT; I believe this is a weekly running average:
I consider The Hermitage, where I spent two fantastic days in 2011; the greatest art museum in the world for its architecture, light, stupendous collection from ancient to modern art, and one’s ability to get close to the paintings (which is probably not good for them).
From the Neva (I was at a meeting and they laid on a fancy cruise complete with tons of food and a bottle of vodka per person):
A staircase inside:
One of their two attributed Leonardos, though this one’s disputed (it may be by a pupil of Leonardo): the Madonna Litta:
Do see the recent movie “Mank” about his life and collaboration with Orson Welles in writing the movie “Citizen Kane”. Here’s a trailer:
1999 – Wassily Leontief, Russian-American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)
2020 – Kirk Douglas, American actor (b. 1916)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, it’s time for Hili to pack it in:
Hili: It’s getting late.
A: And what about it?
Hili: I’m going back home.
Hili: Robi się późno.
Ja: I co w związku z tym?
Hili: Wracam do domu.
And over in Wloclawek, Elzbieta is in severe pain, having been temporarily felled by radiculitis acquired by sitting in the cold too long and watching beavers. She will be fine, but Leon is watching over her.
Leon: You are in the best care; rest easy.
From Malcolm, who found this picture of penguin feathers on Bored Panda. Look at their density!:
From Only Duck Memes. Please read this if you feed ducks, and inform others if you see them giving ducks bread or crackers (click to enlarge):
Two from Simon. First from Oded Rechavi, who specializes in turning photos into memes about academic science. As Simon notes of this one, “I liked Oded’s commentary (as always) but I have to wonder what the bear is thinking.”
Tweets from Matthew. This one he calls “kind of gross unless you’re a dromedary.” This is new to me! Make sure the sound is up!
Lesson for the day: dromedaries are not really “camels”, as “camels” refer to the bactrians. They differ in their number of humps, and you can read about other differences here.
Today I learned.
This is a dulla, or diverticulum, a two chambered pocket in the soft palate of dromedary camels. Males inflate theirs during the mating season to attract females. It is present, though smaller in females, but has not been observed in any other camelid. https://t.co/nSdOWZ0Bpc
*From UN Watch, we have an amazingly stupid act of the United Nations, the dumbest among many dumb actions of that body. The screenshot tells the tale, but you can click on it if you want to read more.
The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts. The UN-backed body calls itself “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”
“Having the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un preside over global nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the United Nations.
“This is a country that threatens to attack other UN member states with missiles, and that commits atrocities against its own people. Torture and starvation are routine in North Korean political prison camps where an estimated 100,000 people are held in what is one of the world’s most dire human-rights situations,” said Neuer.
According to the article, the good news is that the post is “largely formal”, but seriously, what about the optic? The UN is already becoming a joke, and this won’t help:
“At a time when China, Russia, Libya, Kazakhstan and Venezuela are sitting on the UN’s human rights council, this won’t help.”
*Stephen Breyer handed Biden his own letter of resignation from the Supreme Court today, and the President gave him the due plaudits. However, even appointing a black woman Justice, as Biden promises, will do absolutely nothing to change the court’s move to the Right. (She had better be young!). The villain in all this, as usual, is Senator Mitch “666” McConnell, who, according to the NYT,
“The American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50,” Mr. McConnell said in his first statement since word of the retirement leaked. “To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions and unite America. The president must not outsource this important decision to the radical left. The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”
As if his hero Trump didn’t make ideological choices for Justices. Jebus, Amy Coney Barrett is about as far right as you can get. That sad part is that the next oldest justice after Breyer is Clarence Thomas, a decade younger. And you just know that Thomas will be sitting on the bench until they carry him out in a box. It will be amusing seeing the Republican Senators try to do down every one of Biden’s nominees.
*From FIRE we learn that Jason Kilborn, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Law School who used two redacted slurs on a law school exam question about a hypothetical discrimination case (see guest post here) has not only been punished by UIC, but the university also reneged on its agreement with him. For doing exactly nothing wrong, Kilborn now must to undergo months of “training” and write “reflection papers”. This is about the most Stalinesque bit of performative wokeness I’ve seen in a public university. An excerpt from FIRE’s article:
UIC suspended and launched an investigation into Kilborn after he posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called “a ‘n____’ and ‘b____’ (profane expressions for African Americans and women)” as evidence of discrimination. But even redacting the terms didn’t save Kilborn from discipline by university administrators.
Kilborn reached a resolution with UIC in July, in which he agreed to alert the dean before responding to student complaints about racial issues and to audio-record his classes. Kilborn welcomed both of these stipulations in order to protect himself against spurious complaints, and had already decided to take those actions independently. As part of that resolution, Kilborn and UIC ultimately reached an understanding that Kilborn would not have to attend sensitivity training.
However, in November, under pressure from UIC’s Black Law Students Association and Jesse Jackson, UIC reneged on its agreement with Kilborn and is now requiring him to participate in months-long “training on classroom conversations that address racism” and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.
With legal help from FIRE, Kilborn is suing UIC, a public college, for infringement of speech. I hope that UIC loses the case and has to pay tons of money in damages and attorneys’ fees. Their punishment is stupid; their reneging on the agreement is reprehensible.
In an op-ed at the Washington Post, author Dora Horn, who wrote the best-selling book with the provocative title, People Love Dead Jews, muses on why anti-Semitism in America still seems focused on the Holocaust. And the answer is the same as her book’s thesis: people love dead Jews like Anne Frank (who was much in the news last week), but don’t care so much about the ones who don’t die (like the hostages in Texas):
Unfortunately, as critical as teaching about the Holocaust is, it’s not the same as teaching about antisemitism. Instead, people mostly seem to think that antisemitism consists exclusively of the murders of 6 million Jews. Anything short of that is all in our heads. The feel-good stories people tell themselves about dead Jews make it easy to dismiss the here-and-now targeting of live ones.
The FBI eventually walked back its clumsy statement that the Texas attack was “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” But a reporter who spoke to two dozen residents of the synagogue’s neighborhood found they unanimously agreed. In fact, they were convinced their church down the street was equally at risk. “If it happens over there, it could happen over here, too,” one churchgoer said.
Clueless comments such as these reveal the warped funhouse American Jews now live in. After synagogue shootings in Pennsylvania and California, a kosher market attack in New Jersey, a Hanukkah attack in Upstate New York, a rabbi’s stabbing in Boston, street attacks in New York City and Los Angeles, and countless other vicious assaults on American Jews, this kind of plausible deniability has become a public ritual.
But everyone knows about the Holocaust. Holocaust education is now its own ritual, where middle-schoolers and public figures piously announce that Nazis are bad. The problem is that this a rather low bar to clear. We can all pat ourselves on the back for not murdering 6 million Jews. This absurd standard allows people to ignore a pervasive and very current hatred while feeling well-informed. Why should those nice neighbors, or the FBI for that matter, believe antisemitism is a problem if there aren’t millions of bodies?
Because Jews see things well-meaning neighbors don’t. . .
This is an unusually concise, powerful, and well written op-ed.
[On 28 January 1754], inn a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made about a lost painting of Bianca Cappello by Giorgio Vasari by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” The name comes from Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (Ceylon), hence Sarandib by Arab traders. It is derived from the Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ (Siṃhalaḥ, Sri Lanka + dvīpaḥ, island).
However, as always, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the first usage, and it was indeed by Walpole:
1754 H. WalpoleLet. to H. Mann 28 Jan. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity.
Here’s a video showing the first edition of this classic, which will cost you around $30,000 these days.
1855 – A locomotive on the Panama Canal Railway runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined one shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thereby exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h).
The usual walking speed is about 3 mph, so cars had to go slower than pedestrians!
Gitmo is on a yearly lease, but Cuba has refused to accept the payments. Here’s a diagram of the base. The outdoor movie theater is at lower right (circled) and I’ve put an arrow by McDonald’s (yep, there is one!):
And McD’s, surrounded by razor wire!
1933 – The name Pakistan is coined by Choudhry Rahmat Ali Khan and is accepted by Indian Muslims who then thereby adopted it further for the Pakistan Movement seeking independence.
1935 – Iceland becomes the first Western country to legalize therapeutic abortion.
Here’s the official video of “We Are the World”. It was good to see all these people together in a common cause; I failed to recognize only two of the soloists. And where else will you see Willie Nelson singing with Dionne Warwick? Try listening to it first with your eyes closed to see how many voices you can recognize. Dylan! Diana Ross! Stevei Wonder! The Boss! Kim Carnes! Ray Charles! Tina Turner! Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper! Paul Simon! Willie Nelson! It goes on and on and on. . . My favorite part is when Michael Jackson sings harmony with Diana Ross (1:35), who gives him the “okay” sign.
And a special feature from reader Pliny the in Between: Korean Wedding Ducks:
When my brother was in the service he brought home a pair of Korean wedding ducks from Seoul as a wedding gift for me and my partner. By tradition, as long as the ducks are beak-to-beak it symbolizes harmony in the relationship. In a couple of weeks, ours will have been holding that position for 30 years.
I hope they don’t have a cat! You know what would happen, and then the relationship would be kaput. . . (in fact, I’ve since learned that a cat did chew the bll off one duck, but the relationship survived).
From Ginger K. This must be for an OnlyFans cat group:
A tweet by one friend directing you to an article by another friend (and co-author on my one philosophy paper). The title is certainly provocative; I haven’t yet read Maarten’s article but will; in the meantime go see what he means:
Environmentalists deserve credit for alerting the world to climate change, but today they pose a bigger obstacle to effective climate policy than denialists, argues @mboudryhttps://t.co/MYiVsWBDuR
Tweets from Matthew. He says this first one is an “old one”, but it’s also wonky. Who on earth would make cheesecake and cookes sister groups? Cheesecake is closer to a pie or even a “true cake” than to a cookie, for crying out loud!
Dunno if this will pass review but here’s the most parsimonious phylogeny of baked goods I made for some reason. pic.twitter.com/qJfpcRVAP6
Care to hazard a guess as to the artist of this social realist painting? He was 15 at the time & used his father as model for the doctor. The artist’s name?…. (Picasso, Science and Charity, 1897, Picasso Museum, Barcelona) pic.twitter.com/ZrjRznzMk0
It’s 2022!!! A new year has begun on This Saturay, January 1, 2022. (Don’t forget to stop writing 2021 on your checks-— if anybody’s still writing checks.) And a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL; let us hope it will be better than 2*21, the unspeakable year of misery.
Google’s New Year’s Day gif (click on screenshot);
News of the Day:
*Well, 2021 went out the way it came in: miserably. New covid cases set a record: nearly 600,000 new cases in one day! Worse, Bloomberg reports that, by mid-January, there could be a million new covid cases per day! Are we all going to get the virus before this is over?
*And if you’re flying anywhere in the next few days, expect the worst: the NBC Evening News reported last night that 1,500 flights have been canceled, and now we’re facing terrible weather in the Midwest and Northeast U.S. (It will snow at least four inches in Chicago today.) Many pilots are out sick, and United Airlines has offered triple pay for pilots willing to fly extra legs. I’m very glad I didn’t go anywhere for the holidays.
*Along with this goes the cancellation of many New Year’s festivities throughout the world, though the Big Ball is going to drop in Times Square in New York. But in Las Vegas (of course), 300,000 people are predicted to crowd the Strip and there are no restrictions, including masks or proof of vaccinated (both required in New York City).
*I posted yesterday about Betty White’s unexpected death at 99. People that are centenarians or close to it are often asked about their “secret to longevity”, and it’s always something like “do what I did.” In Betty White’s case, Food & Wine Magazine posted her answer on December 29—just two days before she died (oy!):
Of course, Betty White – who turns 100 on January 17 – doesn’t need any help making headlines. And clearly, the lifelong actress knows a thing or two about entertaining answers for interviews. So what was White’s response when People recently asked about her dietary regimen at 99 years old? “I try to avoid anything green,” she joked. “I think it’s working.”
This was a woman after my own heart. Plus she loved animals!
*Speaking of animals, what about that cleaner in Florida who climbed a fence at night, snuck over to the tiger cage at a zoo, stuck his arm through the cage, and was grabbed by a rare Malayan tiger named Eko. The schlemiel called the cops, who came and had to shoot that magnificent animal dead. The zoo is mourning Eko, who was much loved, while the guy is in the hospital in serious condition. The zoo closed on Friday so that the employees could mourn, and there was even a grief counselor available. It’s not yet clear whether authorities will bring criminal charges against the man.
*Need cheering up by now?Click on the screenshot to read a story about animals that has a great headline and a happy ending:
*Marshall Mathers, better known as the rapper Eminem, has just opened a faux-Italian restaurant in Detroit called “Mom’s Spaghetti”. (It’s a reference to his hit song “Lose Yourself”.) The New York Times reviewed it (verdict: meh), and there’s a video below. The joint features an $11 “spaghetti sandwich”: a glop of pasta between two pieces of white bread. Gag me with a spoon!
*And the royal worshipers in the UK are all agog about Kate Middleton playing the piano at a Christmas gala at Westminster Abbey; she accompanied a Scottish singer. Some of the headlines are over the top. This video, for example, is titled “Kate Middleton DAZZLES during impressive piano performance.” From what I can see, it’s not very dazzling. Note how the guy who sang with her osculates the bum of the Firm:
From the Daily Fail:
I’ll never understand the view of the UK public (I know, some of you don’t share this) that the royals are akin to demigods. And yet many smart and thoughtful people argue strenuously that we should keep the royals.
Here’s where it is, and a few words from Wikipedia:
Bouvet Island (Norwegian: Bouvetøya[bʉˈvèːœʏɑ] or Bouvetøyen) is a Norwegian uninhabited protected nature reserve. As a subantarctic volcanic island, it is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean (54°25′S3°22′ECoordinates: 54°25′S3°22′E), at the southern end of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge making it the world’s most remote island. It is not part of the southern region covered by the Antarctic Treaty System.
The island lies 1,700 kilometres (1,100 mi) north of the Princess Astrid Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, 1,900 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of the South Sandwich Islands, 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) south of Gough Island, and 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) south-southwest of the coast of South Africa. It has an area of 49 square kilometres (19 sq mi), 93 percent of which is covered by a glacier. The centre of the island is the ice-filled crater of an inactive volcano. Some skerries and one smaller island, Larsøya, lie along its coast. Nyrøysa, created by a rock slide in the late 1950s, is the only easy place to land and is the location of a weather station.
Here’s that godforsaken island:
1773 – The hymn that became known as “Amazing Grace“, then titled “1 Chronicles 17:16–17”, is first used to accompany a sermon led by John Newton in the town of Olney, Buckinghamshire, England.
Newton wrote the song: in 1772; he was an English poet and Anglican clergyman (1725–1807). I believe Olney is where they have the annual pancake race on Shrove Tuesday (I’ve been there).
Here are some immigrants who passed inspection, and are waiting for a ferry to Manhattan:
1898 – New York, New York annexes land from surrounding counties, creating the City of Greater New York. The four initial boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx, are joined on January 25 by Staten Island to create the modern city of five boroughs.
Even though the island isn’t far from San Francisco, the currents are rough and security was tight. Nobody is known to have successfully escaped. Here’s the island with the prison on it, and a view of the cells (#181, with the open door, was where Al Capone lived):
First the Nazis sterilized these people (not all of the defects were “genetic”), and later began to euthanize them—they were the first victims of the Nazi genocide. (The killing was later stopped after a public outcry. Here’s a poster urging euthanasia; the caption is from Wikipedia:
Considered the father of modern art photography, Stiegliz took many great photos, but this may be his best, “The Steerage”, the subject of a whole Wikipedia page.
The Steerage is a black and white photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz in 1907. It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism.
“There were men and women and children on the lower deck of the steerage. There was a narrow stairway leading to the upper deck of the steerage, a small deck right on the bow with the steamer.
To the left was an inclining funnel and from the upper steerage deck there was fastened a gangway bridge that was glistening in its freshly painted state. It was rather long, white, and during the trip remained untouched by anyone.
On the upper deck, looking over the railing, there was a young man with a straw hat. The shape of the hat was round. He was watching the men and women and children on the lower steerage deck…A round straw hat, the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right, the white drawbridge with its railing made of circular chains – white suspenders crossing on the back of a man in the steerage below, round shapes of iron machinery, a mast cutting into the sky, making a triangular shape…I saw shapes related to each other. I was inspired by a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life.”
Although Stieglitz described “an inclining funnel” in the scene, photographs and models of the ship (see below) show that this object was actually a large mast to which booms were fastened for loading and unloading cargo. One of the booms is shown at the very top of the picture.
1879 – E. M. Forster, English author and playwright (d. 1970)
1895 – J. Edgar Hoover, American law enforcement official; 1st Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (d. 1972)
1919 – J. D. Salinger, American soldier and author (d. 2010)
1942 – Country Joe McDonald, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
1943 – Don Novello, American comedian, screenwriter and producer
Remember Novello as “Father Guido Sarducci” on Saturday Night Live?
1955 – Mary Beard, English classicist, academic and presenter
Those experienced their demise on January 1 include:
1953 – Hank Williams, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1923)
Here’s Williams playing “Hey Good Lookin‘” , written by Williams in 1951. He died at only 29.
1972 – Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer (b. 1888)
2015 – Mario Cuomo, American lawyer and politician, 52nd Governor of New York (b. 1932)
2017 – Derek Parfit, British philosopher (b. 1942)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is washing herself in Andrzej’s chair, but the dialogue is arcane. Malgorzata explains: “Andrzej is saying (truthfully) that Hili might be more comfortable on the sofa. But his objective is not Hili’s comfort. He wants ro regain his own chair and Hili knows it. A situation in which you suggest something which is to your advantage (even if it’s also to the advantage of the other person involved) Hili calls populism and demagoguery.”
Hili: Taking care of one’s cleanliness is time consuming.
A: You will be more comfortable on the sofa.
Hili: This is populism and demagoguery.
Hili: Troska o czystość jest czasochłonna.
Ja: Na sofie będzie ci wygodniej.
Hili: To jest populizm i demagogia.
And here are Szaron and Kulka doing their business:
Leon has some New Year’s wishes, and he’s all dressed up to convey them:
Leon: Have a good time, do not scare your smaller brethren [this is a literal translation, it means: animals] and may you prosper in the New Year in friendship and love.
In Polish: Bawcie sie dobrze, nie straszcie braci mniejszych i niech Wam się darzy w Nowym Roku, w przyjaźni i miłości.
Kulka also has some wishes, and sits next to Andrzej’s new book, which is illustrated by photos of Kulka taken by Paulina:
On New Year Eve Kulka wishes everybody a nice reading (Picture by Paulina R.)
And the editorial team of “Listy z naszego sadu” wishes our readers everything they wish for themselves and perseverance to carry out these wishes against all obstacles.
Kulka, z okazji Sylwestra, życzy wszystkim miłej lektury (Zdjęcie: Paulina R.)
Zaś redakcja “Listów z naszego sadu” życzy wszystkim czytelnikom tego, czego oni sami sobie życzą i wytrwałości, żeby te życzenia wprowadzić w życie wbrew wszelkim przeciwnościom.
Christmas day… my dad would have turned 97. How grateful he would have been to you all for remembering him. Thank you for your kindness and your thoughtfulness. Wishing you all a happy holiday and better days in 2022.
From the impressive tiger to the tiny rusty-spotted cat, over 40 different species of cats can be found around the globe. In the wild, non-domesticated cats are crucial to maintaining ecosystems, pollinating plants, spreading seeds, and controlling insect and rodent populations. pic.twitter.com/azQR9gzDq2
*The Associated Press discusses how and why programs for the “gifted and talented” are being dismantled in secondary schools throughout America, all in the name of equity. The issue is that blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in such programs compared to “regular” programs, and this inequity is considered prima facie evidence for present-day racism if you adhere to a Kendian agenda. Her are two of the critics of gifted and talented programs:
The changes don’t go far enough for critics like Rita Green, the education chair of the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP. She has called for more work to build environments that nurture the intellectual development of all the district’s 50,000 schoolchildren.
“We want the program just abolished. Period. The Highly Capable Cohort program is fundamentally flawed, and it’s inherently racist,” Green said.
. . .One such constituent, Zakiyah Ansari, the New York City director for the Alliance for Quality Education, wants Adams to follow through with de Blasio’s pledge.
“We believe every child is a gifted child, every child is a talented child,” Ansari said. “We have to have people as angry about taking away one program that impacts a few people and be more upset about the Black and brown kids who haven’t had access to excellent education.”
*The New York Times reports that three professors from the University of Florida have been barred from testifying for the prosecution in a lawsuit trying to overturn the state’s new restrictive voting rights bill. This is clearly a violation of both academic freedom and the First Amendment, but the University makes a specious claim:
University officials told the three that because the school was a state institution, participating in a lawsuit against the state “is adverse to U.F.’s interests” and could not be permitted. In their filing, the lawyers sought to question Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, on whether he was involved in the decision.
Mr. DeSantis has resisted questioning, arguing that all of his communications about the law are protected from disclosure because discussions about legislation are privileged.
The school has always let professors testify in court cases, even those involving criticism of the party in power in Florida, which is also “adverse to U.F.’s interests. I’m betting that DeSantis has pressured the University, saying that he’d withhold funds from the school if the professors testify. In the end, I think they will, for this is an open and shut issue. (h/t Bill)
*Also in the NYT, an op-ed by Tressie McMillam Cottom called “Why we should talk about what Kyrsten Sinema is wearing.” (That’s a clickbait title if ever there was one.) It turns out that the answer, for Cottom, is more a sociological one—though an interesting one—but has little to do with how we assess her politics, or of little use those who wish to change Sinema’s stand, which is obstructing Biden’s two funding bills.
A consulting architect on [The University of Californa at Santa Barbara’s] Design Review Committee has quit his post in protest over the university’s proposed Munger Hall project, calling the massive, mostly-windowless dormitory plan “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.”
In his October 25 resignation letter to UCSB Campus Architect Julie Hendricks, Dennis McFadden ― a well-respected Southern California architect with 15 years on the committee ― goes scorched earth on the radical new building concept, which calls for an 11-story, 1.68-million-square-foot structure that would house up to 4,500 students, 94 percent of whom would not have windows in their small, single-occupancy bedrooms.
The idea was conceived by 97-year-old billionaire-investor turned amateur-architect Charles Munger, who donated $200 million toward the project with the condition that his blueprints be followed exactly. Munger maintains the small living quarters would coax residents out of their rooms and into larger common areas, where they could interact and collaborate.
Here’s the horrible dorm, and its floor plan below that. Crikey, would you want to live there for four years?
The architect who resigned said the dorm “would qualify as the eighth densest neighborhood on the planet, falling just short of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It would be able to house Princeton University’s entire undergraduate population, or all five Claremont Colleges. . . The project is essentially the student life portion of a mid-sized university campus in a box.”
The University is going to build it anyway! Usually money is given to universities without such strict conditions. Jebus!
It’s a Lutheran Church now, and Martin is buried inside. Here’s his tomb.
The famous doors seem to be gone, but in truth the claim that Luther posted his manifesto on them is questionable. But they built these ones below, described in Wikipedia as “‘Theses Doors’, commemorating Luther’s Ninety-five Theses were installed on Luther’s 375th birthday in 1858.”
1907 – The Parliament of Finland approved the Prohibition Act, but the law was not implemented because it was not ratified by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Here’s a photo of the attack, which took place in what is now southern Israel. Reinforced by later troops, it ultimately led to the British capture of Jerusalem. Note that the first wave of attackers brandished only bayonets as they charged; the rifles are on their backs.
1922 – Benito Mussolini is made Prime Minister of Italy
Here’s where Marble Bar is (there are stromatolites nearby!), and then a view of that godforsaken town. (Read the NYT article on what it’s like to live there).
But it’s not the hottest town in Australia! That honor goes to Wyndham, Western Australia, located on the map below with a picture of that town, where “In 1946, Wyndham recorded 333 consecutive days of temperatures over 32 °C (90 °F).” The population is 780 sweating Aussies.
1940 – World War II: The Battle of Britain ends: The United Kingdom prevents a possible German invasion.
Keats died at only 25 of tuberculosis. What great poetry we’d have had he lived longer. Here’s a life mask from 1816 followed by a photo of Keats’s grave in Rome (note that his name isn’t on the tombstone).
1835 – Adolf von Baeyer, German chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1917)
1887 – Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese general and politician, 1st President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) (d. 1975)
1912 – Dale Evans, American singer-songwriter and actress (d. 2001)
I never really encountered the work of Schiele until I visited the Leopold Museum in Vienna, where I was mesmerized by his paintings. I now consider him one of the very greatest modern artists. Below is a photo I took of one of his paintings when I visited in October, 2012. This is “Self Portrait With Lowered Head” (1912).
Schiele died at only 28, another great loss to art. He succumbed of the Spanish flu in the fall of 1918, only three days after his wife died. And that’s about the time my paternal grandmother died in the same epidemic.
1926 – Harry Houdini, American magician and stuntman (b. 1874)
1984 – Indira Gandhi, Indian politician, Prime Minister of India (b. 1917)
1988 – John Houseman, Romanian-born American actor, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1902)
1993 – River Phoenix, American actor and singer (b. 1970)
2006 – P. W. Botha, South African soldier and politician, State President of South Africa (b. 1916)
2008 – Studs Terkel, American historian and author (b. 1912)
Before you diss badgers, have a look at this armful of babies (I believe these are European badgers, Meles meles):
News of the Day:
*It’s been 258 days since Biden took office, and the promised First Cat has still not been adopted. I think that it’s time for us to give up hope that the White House will harbor a moggy during this term (did he forget?)
*Negotiations continue—between Biden on one hand and Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III on the other—about how much slashing of Biden’s social safety-net bill will cause the two centrist Democrats to get with Biden’s program. An op-ed in the Washington Post accuses the two Senators of bad faith, with the progressives being the heroes, amply willing to compromise. And an op-ed in the NYT by Michelle Goldberg, “What’s wrong with Kyrsten Sinema?” goes full-tilt against the Arizona Senator, claiming she doesn’t even articulate her goals. According to Goldberg, Sinema’s driving principle is to keep people focused on her vacillations and silences. It doesn’t get much more accusatory than this:
It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.
. . . Now that she’s part of a governing majority, Sinema is, ironically, recapitulating some of the pathologies she boasted about transcending. Rather than being part of a productive coalition, she’s once again operating as a defiantly contrary outsider. The bipartisanship that was once a source of liberation for her seems to have become a rigid identity.
“I think she’s just really invested in that self-image, personally, as someone who stands up to her party, and I think she has really lost track of what is actually politically prudent, even to put aside the impact on the lives of millions of people,” said Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona, a progressive group that worked to elect Sinema to the Senate. There’s a difference, it turns out, between being a maverick and being a narcissist.
That last word hits hard. What do I think of Sinema? I don’t know because she won’t talk. But even if she’s a narcissist without policy goals, she should at least be allowed to pee in peace.
*After 12 years as head of the National Institutes of health, Francis Collins has decided to step down as director. Appointed by Obama in 2009, he’s served longer in that position than any other director since the position became one filled by Presidential appointment (1971). Now, he thinks, it’s time for younger blood to run this most important position, but I have to say that despite my criticism of his evangelical Christianity, he’s done a terrific job at the NIH and I wish him well as he goes back to research—and his beloved motorcycle:
Tuesday’s statement said that Collins would continue to lead his research laboratory at the National Human Genome Research Institute, “which is pursuing genomics, epigenomics and single cell biology to understand the causes and means of prevention for type 2 diabetes. His lab also seeks to develop new genetic therapies for the most dramatic form of premature aging, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.”
While he will still be at work in science, Collins told NPR, “Maybe I’ll ride my Harley a little bit more than I have for the last year.”
*The Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos trial continues, with the Wall Street Journal, which originally broke the story, having the best coverage, including a continuous live feed. The latest issue: her relationship with her high-level associate Sunny Balwani, her secret boyfriend for years. Holmes may mount a mental health defense that he psychologically, sexually, and emotionally abused her. (Balwani will be tried later for the same crimes as Holmes.) Years of text messages between the two document their secret romance, but also suggest that Holmes, accused of wire fraud and conspiracy, knew well that there were problems with her blood-testing device. A separate article in the WSJ reports:
Prosecutors have had some of the intimate text messages read aloud in court, potentially helping them prove their case that Ms. Holmes failed to take seriously numerous warnings about inaccurate blood-test results.
“You do have some kind of indication that she knew that not all was well with the company,” said Andrey Spektor, a former federal prosecutor with the Eastern District of New York who isn’t involved in the case but has read portions of the text messages. “Those messages by themselves are not going to get prosecutors to conviction but coupled with everything else, it’s a pretty powerful case.”
*John McWhorter turns 56 today (see below), and has a new NYT essay, “Up in arms over a pronoun.” The pronoun at issue is “they”, which McWhorter apparently says is fine in constructions like the one below:
Feedback on my newsletter about the embrace of “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun referring to a single person — Joel is wearing their green shirt today because it matches their pants — has been, well, pointed.
It seems that quite a few people have a major problem with this change in pronominal usage. I understand all of their objections but disagree with them.
Well, I disagree with McWhorter. The objections aren’t–at least in my case–based on a worry about pronouns and gender. McWhorter doesn’t favor “they” in the sentence above because Joel is “genderfluid”. Rather McWhorter thinks that it’s just as good as “he” or “his”. But, as a matter of simple comprehension, the sentence is confusing.
What’s even more confusing is that he later says this:
I am not convinced that “they” could be all that powerful on even a language level. For example, if anyone were to call for all people to be referred to as “they” — which I am unaware of but is conceivable as an idea someone might propose — it would fall so far from common perception that it would be unlikely to catch on.
Am I missing something, or did he just say that using “they” for Joel isn’t “common perception”? There is indeed a place for “they” when referring to unspecified sexes or genders, but not in the case of Joel’s clothes.
This was the first movie to use synchronized dialogue. Al Jolson sang six songs; several were in blackface, so you won’t see this movie these days. Here’s a scene where he sings his first song without makeup:
1973 – Egypt and Syria launch coordinated attacks against Israel, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
Here’s the Gang of Four, which included Jiang Qing, Mao’s first wife. They tried to take over the government after Mao died, but were arrested and tried for treason. Their fates, according to Wikipedia: “Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan were given life and twenty years in prison, respectively. All members of the Gang of Four have since died; Jiang Qing committed suicide in 1991, Wang Hongwen died in 1992, and Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao died in 2005, having been released from prison in 1996 and 1998, respectively.
Here’s an account of the assassination with video of the attack:
1995 – The first planet orbiting another sun, 51 Pegasi b, is discovered.
2007 – Jason Lewis completes the first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth.
It took him from 1994 to 2007 to complete the feat, using bicycles, kayaks, boats (with pedals), and rollerblades. Here’s an absorbing 17.5-minute video of the feat, which was amazing. Wikipedia reports: “During his expedition, Lewis twice survived malaria, sepsis, a bout of mild schizophrenia, and a crocodile attack near Australia in 2005.” Imagine all the visas he needed!
2010 – Instagram, a mainstream photo-sharing application, is founded.
Instagram has been shown to cause or exacerbate mental illness in teen girls (often by causing anorexia because of the slimness of “influencers”). I wonder why they didn’t stop looking at it.
Notables born on this day include:
1820 – Jenny Lind, Swedish soprano and actress (d. 1887)
Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale”, in 1850 (photo was retouched):
1846 – George Westinghouse, American engineer and businessman, founded the Westinghouse Air Brake Company (d. 1914)
1887 – Le Corbusier, Swiss-French architect and painter, designed the Philips Pavilion and Saint-Pierre, Firminy (d. 1965)
Here’s Baker doing an amazing drum solo (his Cream bandmate Clapton also plays). I’m told that the 2012 movie about him, “Beware of Mr. Baker“, which shows how irascible he was, is quite good.
2020 – Eddie Van Halen, Dutch-American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (b. 1955)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is laconic, but Malgorzata explains: “Hili is not any kind of lover of Rome (read: Vatican) so she is thankful that even if all roads lead to Rome, there are no roads in the wilderness.”
Hili: All roads lead to Rome.
Hili: Thank God for wilderness.
Hili: Wszystkie drogi prowadzą do Rzymu.
Hili: Dzięki Bogu, są bezdroża.
And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon, sitting on Elzbieta’s shoulder, mourns the onset of winter:
Leon: Well, where has the sun gone?
From Stash Krod. Cat butts seem to be a recurring theme lately:
It simply means the immutable yet fluid feeling that one is male or female or neither or both based on conceptions of masculinity and femininity that are innate but also social constructs that don’t exist.
. . . many are deeply fearful, among them the millions of Afghan women who are afraid of a return to a repressive past, when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, and barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. In 1996, a woman in Kabul had the end of her thumb cut off for wearing nail varnish, according to Amnesty International. In recent months, some women have been flogged by Taliban fighters for having their faces uncovered.
And Taliban 2.0 is already searching the houses of Afghanistan for young single women to marry to their “fighters.”
Afghan girls and young women are once again where I have been — in despair over the thought that they might never be allowed to see a classroom or hold a book again. Some members of the Taliban say they will not deny women and girls education or the right to work. But given the Taliban’s history of violently suppressing women’s rights, Afghan women’s fears are real. Already, we are hearing reports of female students being turned away from their universities, female workers from their offices.
. . . We will have time to debate what went wrong in the war in Afghanistan, but in this critical moment we must listen to the voices of Afghan women and girls. They are asking for protection, for education, for the freedom and the future they were promised. We cannot continue to fail them. We have no time to spare.
What can we do for them? I will try to find out. One way is The Malala Fund, her own fund to help Afghan women, though it’s unclear how the money will be used now that the Taliban country the country.
It turns out that desperate Afghans trying to cling to departing airplanes in Kabul were indeed killed in the attempt. As the Washington Post reports,
The Air Force said on Tuesday that it is launching an investigation into the deaths of civilians related to a C-17 flight that departed Kabul, including reports of people falling from the airborne plane and human remains that were later found in a wheel well.
Back to the pandemic. It now looks as if we’ll all be getting booster shots for the coronavirus, with older folks and the immunocompromised first. Word on the street is that U.S. health authorities will very soon recommend a booster eight months after the second shot. That would be soon for many of us—September for me.
But there’s good news tonight! Alicia from Madrid, who was profiled here, has adopted a white kitten. The details:
I just want to tell you that my flat has a new inhabitant, a 4-month old kitten named Chema M I adopted 10 days Iago from a local shelter/foster home. He is a handsome lad, good humoured, loves cuddles. As you have been at least partially responsible for my decision, I’ve named you his honorary godfather (CeilingCatfather? Ungodlyfather?).
When I asked about the name, I got this response:
His full name is Chema Måneskin. Chema is a Spanish nickname for ‘José María’ or ‘José Manuel’, this last one is the name the foster family had chosen. Both are men’s names. His ‘surname’, Måneskin, means moonlight in Danish, and I thought it appropiate for his fair hair and blue eyes. It is also the name of the Italian rock group who won Eurovision song contest and whose songs I seem to listen to endlessly these days.
A fabled city now down on its luck, Timbuktu was a thriving town on the trans-Saharan salt-trade route. Now there are few visitors because of military activity and kidnappings in the area. Many of its buildings were made of mud, as this one, Sankore University, and part of the town is a World Heritage site.
An old postcard of the city, with the university in the background:
Here he is on graduation day. The racism that he faced, which was endemic at Ole Miss, is unbelievable:
1977 – Steve Biko is arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No. 83 of 1967 in King William’s Town, South Africa. He later dies from injuries sustained during this arrest bringing attention to South Africa’s apartheid policies.
Biko, an anti-apartheid activist was in fact beaten to death by South African security officers and died at 30 from brain injuries:
Nothing is known of what became of Dare, or the other colonists of the “lost colony”, for by 1590 the inhabitants had mysteriously disappeared. Theories range from mass murder by local Native Americans to intermarriage with them, though the latter seems improbable.
1774 – Meriwether Lewis, American soldier, explorer, and politician (d. 1809)
1922 – Alain Robbe-Grillet, French director, screenwriter, and novelist (d. 2008)
1961 – Bob Woodruff, American journalist and author
Those who went to a Better Place on August 18 include:
Khan founded the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in history. It was the second largest if you count empires that were discontinuous, and I bet you can guess which empire was #1 there.
1850 – Honoré de Balzac, French novelist and playwright (b. 1799)
Bose, a respected Indian nationalist and President of the Indian National Congress, somewhat tarnished his reputation later in life by trying to form alliances with both the Nazis and Japanese during WWII to help boot the British from India. He organized the Indian National Army for Indian fighters to battle the British in collaboration with the Japanese. Bose died at 48 in the crash of a Japanese plane that crashed in Taiwan. Many think it was sabotage, but most historians agree it was a regular plane crash. Here’s Bose, a controversial figure to this day:
1990 – B. F. Skinner, American psychologist and philosopher, invented the Skinner box (b. 1904)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s concerned about the roses:
Hili: The roses are poor this year. A: They were destroyed by frost, now they are growing again.
Hili: Marne te róże w tym roku.
Ja: Wymarzły w zimie, teraz odrastają.
Leon, Mietek, and his staff are vacationing in the southern mountains. It’s time to eat!
From Simon. I’ve seen trains like this in India (and planes like this in Afghanistan), but Rechavi likes to give these pictures an academic spin. Simon’s note: “There is some debate in this one as to whether he is referring to co-authors or supplementary materials.” I think it’s the authors.
A tweet from Barry, reviving the “cultural appropriation” fracas that I thought had died down:
I guess if you aren’t Italian you can’t make Italian food. Same goes if you’re not Mexican, Irish, etc. This is what happens when you’re so far one way on the ideologue spectrum that in your attempts to call out racism, you actually are being racist. What a dumb hill to die on. https://t.co/vv141tIP1t
This is exactly how Ayatollah Khomeini answered questions when he first came to power. "Freedom of speech, human rights and women's rights will all be protected…in accordance with Islamic law". That means none of these rights will be protected. https://t.co/XvTzxy0TJc
A NYT “guest essay” by Frederick Kagan asserts in the title, “Biden could have stopped the Taliban. He chose not to.” How could he have stopped them. By withdrawing troops during the slack season as well as maintaining a more continuous U.S. presence there in regional counterterrorism bases:
As U.S. military planners well know, the Afghan war has a seasonal pattern. The Taliban leadership retreats to bases, largely in Pakistan, every winter and then launches the group’s fighting season campaign in the spring, moving into high gear in the summer after the poppy harvest. At the very least, the United States should have continued to support the Afghans through this period to help them blunt the Taliban’s latest offensive and buy time to plan for a future devoid of American military assistance.
And we should have worried about the “optics”:
Sending additional troops into Afghanistan could have allowed the United States to carry out the withdrawal safely without severely disrupting military support.
No, none of this would have worked, for the Afghan army simply didn’t have a jones to destroy the Taliban. We would have been propping up the regime and the military forever.
Reader Scott sent me a link to an article, adding, “unfortunately, the article is from FOX but is accurately reporting on the nonsense.” What’s the nonsense? It this article:
I don’t quite get it. If you feed your infant via lactation, you are doing so through your breasts, whether you be a cis-woman or a transman. Why change the language? Likewise, what’s wrong with “breast milk”?
Vaccination or termination? As the Washington Post reports, a number of nurses and other staff at Winchester Valley Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia, have quit their jobs rather than obey their employer’s mandate that they get the coronavirus vaccination. Here’s a picture of some of the unemployed chowderheads.
And a quote:
“We are not ‘anti-vax,’ ” said Brittany Watson, a behavioral health nurse at the Winchester hospital, who started a group called the Valley Health Workers Association to rally others opposed to the vaccine mandate. “We’ve done all the vaccines that you get when you grow up — but those have been around for decades. But this one, there’s so much propaganda around it. It doesn’t make any sense.”
I enjoyed this NYT article on woolly mammoth tusks. (The species went extinct about 10,000 years ago, roughly when “civilization” began.) Though the substantive information the article reports is thin, the methodology was fascinating. Mammoth tusks have daily rings, and you can tell what a mammoth was eating by doing isotope analysis of shavings from the tusks. (The mammoth must be found where it actually lived.) What they discovered is that the mammoth, named Kik, ate grass (surprise!), but ate less as it got older, so it may have starved to death, perhaps because of tge unavailability of forage. Kik died at 28, characterized as “middle age for a mammoth”, and appeared to migrate seasonally, though how they deduced that isn’t told.
This is not really funny, and could have been worse, but yet is a new argument against having guns (click on screenshot from the AP site):
A Wisconsin woman accidentally shot a friend while using the laser sight on a handgun to play with a cat, authorities said.
A criminal complaint charging the 19-year-old woman with negligent use of a weapon said she was visiting a Kenosha apartment on Tuesday afternoon where a 21-year-old man had brought a handgun.
The woman, who a witness said had been drinking, picked up the handgun, “turned on the laser sight and was pointing it at the floor to get the cat to chase it,” when the gun went off, the complaint filed Thursday said.
The man, who was standing in a doorway, was shot in the thigh, authorities said. He left and went into another apartment, where police found him after responding to a 911 call, the Kenosha News reported.
Do not try this at home. You could also shoot the cat!
1792 – Maximilien de Robespierre presents the petition of the Commune of Paris to the Legislative Assembly, which demanded the formation of a revolutionary tribunal.
1858 – U.S. President James Buchanan inaugurates the new transatlantic telegraph cable by exchanging greetings with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. However, a weak signal forces a shutdown of the service in a few weeks.
Here are the planes waiting to take off. Only two made it to Hawaii; as Wikipedia notes, ” In all, before, during, and after the race, ten lives were lost and six airplanes were lost or damaged beyond repair.”
The walk-off (it lasted 7 years) was not just a strike, but a general protest against oppression and confiscation of lands of the indigenous people. Here’s the song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow“:
2020 – The enormous August Complex fire in California is reported on this day. It burned more than one million acres of land.
Well, now we have the Dixie Fire, whose name is offensive and should be changed to “Big Fire.”
Notables born on this day include:
1815 – John Bosco, Italian priest and educator (d. 1888)
Nidal, whose real name was Sabri Khalil al-Banna, was involved in all manner of odious terrorist plots. The founder of Fatah, his organizations were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. Here’s a rare photo of the man, who either committed suicide or was shot by Saddam Hussein’s minions in 2002.
2003 – Idi Amin, Ugandan field marshal and politician, 3rd President of Uganda (b. 1928)
Another bad guy, Amin was a horrible despot and a murderer, responsible for the death of roughly half a million people. He died in Saudi Arabia, where he’d fled. Here’s a brief video about his history:
2019 – Peter Fonda, American actor, director, and screenwriter. (b. 1940)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili’s being a watchcat:
A: What are you doing here?
Hili: I’m guarding the house.
Ja: Co tu robisz?
Hili: Pilnuję domu.
And in nearby Wloclawek, Leon is up to no good. (Malgorzata explains that “Polish words imply that Leon is not just thinking what to do next but what mischief to do next. I had no idea how to say it in English.”)
Leon: What to do?
And here is baby Kulka. Do you think she and Hili share genes?
From Stash Krod, a bad screwup in signage:
From Facebook via reader Lenora:
From Andrzej. The answers were already given!
From Masih. These women won’t be banned only from singing, but going to school and going without head coverings. That will start immediately. It’s all over for the women of Afghanistan—in fact, it’s all over for everyone who doesn’t want to be controlled by a medieval theocracy.
This is heart-breaking. Back in 2019, these beautiful Afghan women from Afghanistan's first and only female-only orchestra were full of hope.
As the Taliban have invaded Afghanistan, women like them will be banned from singing. They'll be confined to their homes. pic.twitter.com/OenYV0DcgE
From Barry, who was astounded that these creatures even exist (he should see a fennec!). The link takes you to the Wikipedia article on Otocyon megalotis), a denizen of the savannas in eastern and southern Africa.
The bat-eared fox is the only extant species of the genus Otocyon and considered a basal canid species. It is named for its large ears, which have an important role in their thermoregulation [read more: https://t.co/996GKnqDpr] pic.twitter.com/AU7MHAieOl
Matthew’s a bit puzzled by this, since, he says, dogs greet each other by sniffing bums but don’t have a “goodbye” ceremony. But chimps and bonobos live in small groups, and so could reinforce solidarity and harmony by saying goodbye as well as hello.